51 Entering the Dragon


Packed up and had time to spare so I made the effort to get to my most visited coffee place.  It’s potentially the last cup of joe I’ll have for a while. I had some dim sum early in the morning and did all the little things that had to be done. Got some great shots with the morning sun illuminating the streets just right. I bought some snacks last night for the road and graded the complimentary bottle of water from the hotel. I’m ready to go. We are scheduled to leave at 1000 but I have a feeling that today things won’t go on time. 

I had a good chat with Bernie it’s good to hear from him. With the time differences it’s hard to catch people when they are awake or not at work and with me able to communicate. I don’t have a local SIM card for any place I’ve been to so far. Restrictions form creativity and I’ve managed to survive with just wifi to keep me going. People are slowly starting to gather around. I will have some quiet moments or will make some in order to write. I’m feeling excited to be leaving and traveling China. I think it’s going to be great. 


I made it through the border and are just waiting for the rest of the people. I think I got Harvey mad a bit by walking on and not waiting for the rest of the group. I’m thinking to myself why bother waiting. Crossing borders is a long tedious process. I just want to get out of this building for some fresh air. The place itself is pretty busy. There are people streing by endlessly. I’m waiting now because there is no clear exit and no way of getting back to this spot to look for my mates on the trip. Don’t want to get lost now. 


We are traveling along on the bullet train rocketing along at 350/hr down along the railway. The video that I just recorded looks like a time lapse but it really isn’t it’s in real time. I’m sitting beside Harvey our CEO writing down my impressions of the last couple of hours. 


Once we got past the border we went down to the metro and took the underground rail to the train station. We passed security each time we entered a station our bags screened for contraband. There was a strong security presence outside the station with an armored vehicle flashing it’s lights and the army fatigued police playing around with the chamber. It was a bit unnerving for some. 

The transportation system is all new. The geometric shapes of the stations and the questionable color schemes give me a strange impression. The clinical looking advertising is offset by the advertising on metro line that was projected on the wall outside the train. It was kind of cool actually. 

When we got to the station we had about. An hour and a half before we had to board the train. The station was vast with various different shops and restaurants selling different things. My frequently visited coffee shop was there too. We stopped in after having a dart in the washroom. The only such place in the station where it is tolerated. There were others there as well. The signs did not deter anyone there is solidarity in numbers. 

The great firewall is in full effect. I am not able to check my email or update my status. The wheel keeps spinning as if the site is no longer there. My cached info is still there but that’s about it. The only thing that does work is WhatsApp which is great for communication. I contacted the one person that I knew would answer quickly. At least later I can send my brother a message to let him know how I am. 

We roll by and pass what appears to be a continuous city. Harvey tells me that due to the industry that is concentrated here the development outward from each centre has merged them into a mega city in appearance but not necessarily in name yet. There are four lane highways criss crossing the area but they are not gridlocked in fact some of them look abandoned. The buildings off in the distance and others that are close appear like boxes or rectangles as if drawn by the same hand and repeated with minor alterations and familiar motifs. There is construction that can be seen in various states of completion. Vast swathes of farming interspersed with it too. This place is very much in development wig no distinguishing marks except for the stations that we enter on our way to Yangshuo. 


We have random discussions about things that come up in conversation. We enter another clinical looking station. It misses the element of color and graphic design. It is purely utilitarian in nature yellow markings for safety, glass as a barrier, white for reflection, grey stone for contrast, blue board for signage and a LED screen for information. Beyond is green if land is left to its devices with tropical foliage and moisture for rice fields in rectangular plots allowed to take up real estate. 

Tourism is becoming a bigger and bigger industry here. It helps the economy and allows a cultural exchange to happen here. There is. World outside its borders and it keeps wanting to get in just as much as people wanting to get out to see what is there. 


We are getting close to our stop. I know I’m not the only one who is starting to feel a little stir crazy from sitting down for so long. The scenery that passes by us is beautiful. The sun is shining through the clouds as it continues its descent towards the horizon and illuminates the mostly farmed landscape tucked in between jutting rocks. The place feels lush and peaceful. There are numerous brick buildings clustered together forming little communities. These multi storey structures maximized to house more people and occupy less of the valuable land used for rice farming. The mountainous terrain lords over the landscape with some of the bases terraced to increase the yield of the crop. 

The stops that we have encountered are too brief and hose of us wishing for some fresh air are quickly whisked away by the little lady with a big voice yelling out commands in an incomprehensible language. The tone and gestures that she uses makes it abundantly clear what she wants from us and we sheepishly oblige. The two men standing virtually the whole journey laugh at us and the situation since they were yelled at too. We have an understanding and a common nemesis that we do not wish to cross. I can’t even leak outside the door as it prepares to close for our departure. 

We pass through yet another tunnel carved into the mountain. I wonder how long it took them to build this line. The reigon is quite mountainous and there are numerous tunnels that we have passed through already. To maintain our speed requires such construction. Not only that it requires the will and finances to pay for it all. Even here in the now remote regions of the country buildings are being built that look new yet empty and abandoned. They have no windows but probably don’t see much more to become livable. The trees and vegetation looks different too some of it looks planted as the canopy is so even and the spacing so regular between the trunks. 

The temperature has become considerably warmer on the train. It makes some drowsy and they’ve drifted off while others like myself are antsy and squirmy in our seats in anticipation of getting off. At first I thought these seats were comfortable but on second thought I find them too narrow and hard to get comfortable. My neck cranked back a bit when I dozed off earlier. Even the armrest is too low so you can’t support your weight without bending your back to either side. 


We are on a rickety bus driving over a bumpy road towards our destination. We picked a couple of cultural activities to do tomorrow. The town we are going to is renowned for its beauty. Many people from all over the country go there to relax and find romance. Harvey just gave us the run down of the choices that we have. 

Getting off the train was a relief. It was starting to get hot and stuffy in there. The train held an amazingly large amount of people. All of them headed to the few available exits. As we left the station I noticed one of the security guys had a claw type weapon. Interesting. We were let out into a giant square and looking around there is little that resembles the feel of western spaces like this. There is no advertising familiar to our eyes and the makeup of what is sold inside the store is alien as well. There were lots of people all tryin to find their way to their destination including a couple that was going where we are. They asked if we were going that way and if they could hitch a ride. They were English speakers and looked a bit bewildered. I said that it’s not my decision to make and that they would have to talk to our tour guide. They had questions about distance and cost as well as directions for the bus. They couldn’t hitch a ride with us even though it would have been a nice gesture. We have a bit of space. 


We settled into our hotel room and are out in the touristy town. It is colorful and loud with music emanating from the nearby rwstaurant that we are eating at. It is in stark contrast to the other sites that we passed along the road to getting here. We will be here for the next few days exploring and enjoying the festivities. It is a pretty town and the day will reveal it’s true majesty. The rocks and mountains jutting out from the ground frame the city making it compact. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. 


As with all towns like this there is a conglomeration of clubs and bars. I told my roommate and he and his friends talked about it and it seems like tomorrow night will be the day to go out and see the town. The shops are all pulling down their wares and closing down. For a Tuesday night it was a busy night out on the town. It seems like the tourists from within the country like to get down and have a good time too.  


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